I am not going to talk today about abdominal obesity that contributes to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and many more (by the way, you should be already concerned if you are a woman and your waist circumference is bigger than 80 cm, or if you are a man and your waist circumference is bigger than 94 cm). Today I am going to speak about belly that is not flat, that does not look good with a bathing suit or under a tight dress.
There might be many reasons why people cannot have flat belly: inactive lifestyle, lack of exercise for abdominal muscles, bad diet, hormone imbalances, abnormal gut flora, just to name a few.
Here is my story. I am an active person with no excess weight, eating healthy diet and exercising on a regular basis. One day I just saw a bum belly sticking out of my tight dress. I thought: “where is my waist gone?” I could not believe that it was just the belly fat. I was thinking “is this aging?”, “maybe I need to exercise more?”. So I started to exercise targeting my abs more. Unfortunately, there were no results. And then I started a food journal where I was recording every single bite of food I ate. After some time, I realized the problem might hide in a form of milk. And I was right.
Dairy was a staple for my breakfast. I used to have plain yogurt with some berries and a big cup of coffee late every morning, followed with one more big cup of coffee late in the afternoon. I used to have a dessert every weekend that, of course, was with some form of milk.
After checking my every day records in the food journal about the food eaten, symptoms occurred and the general feeling, I decided to exclude all dairy from my diet and after a couple of days my belly was flat again and I was able even to see some shape of my abs. So this is how I lost my belly bum in a couple of days. On top of that I did allergy and intolerance tests for milk and lactose, searching for the medical proof that my decision is correct; however, all test results were negative. That is why I tried to reintroduce dairy to my diet a couple of times again. But every time I got the same bad result. So now I know that every time I cheat and have a nice cup of coffee late, I will not be in my best shape at least for a couple of days. And it is not only the bloating. After recording all my feelings, symptoms and moods in the food journal, I have realized that every weekend I have blocked nose and a headache, and I know it is not caused by alcohol because I do not consume any. I think this is my body’s response to my treats that I have on weekends – a slice of cheesecake, an eclair or other dessert.
Why milk? And why medical tests are not showing any sensitivities? I had the same questions and was searching a lot to get some decent answers. Apparently, milk has two major substances, which might cause problems: lactose – disaccharide sugar found in milk products and casein – the main protein found in all mammalian milk. It also contains whey that might cause allergic reactions as well, but the first two are most common.
According to various sources, from 25% to 90% of planet’s population cannot digest lactose due to the lack of lactose digesting enzyme called lactase. There are people who deplete in this enzyme during their lifetime because of the genetic variation – who can consume milk initially, but later in their life they cannot. There are people who cannot digest lactose from birth because of the lactase enzyme deficiency. And there are people who can acquire lactose intolerance in any period of their life, which might be caused by any antibiotic treatment, intestinal parasites, infectious diarrhea and many other environmental causes. This one might be reversible – if you heal your gut and establish a healthy micro flora, you might be able to digest lactose again, but it happens not in every case.
Casein is a protein in milk that makes 80% in cow’s milk – the one we consume most often. This is the most common reason of the milk allergy. Even if the allergy testing IgE and IgG are negative, casein still might generate inflammation and stimulate immune system in a bad way. Recurring ear infection, tonsillitis, sinus infection, asthma, eczema, acne, PMS, heavy periods, bloated belly are just some of the symptoms that might show the adverse reaction to casein. However, it is sad that most of the doctors are not interested in finding the cause of these problems, rather prescribing some medicine to treat the symptoms.
Another interesting fact was discovered by doctors about casein already a couple decades ago. In order to digest casein, our body should produce enzyme with a long name – dipeptidyl peptidase. This digestive enzyme is produced in our gut by enterocytes and it should break down casein into amino acids usable for our body. However, scientists found out that some people have low levels of this enzyme that is able to brake casein only to peptides – protein fragments, but not until amino acids. These peptides are called casomorphins and they are opioids – substances with similar chemical structure and effect to opiates – narcotic substance. They get through the blood-brain barrier and block certain areas of the brain, just like morphine or heroin would do. Scientists detected these casomorphins in the urine of patients with autoimmune problems, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, epilepsy, autism, ADHD, alcoholism, Down syndrome. Who knows how much of this enzyme so important for proper digestion of casein we have? And how much of this type of drugs our body factory produces when it gets dairy in it?
It is proven that milk increases mucus production, which may aggravate conditions like running nose, asthma, sinusitis, year infection. In a similar way, milk increases mucus production in gastrointestinal track that cause irritation in the gut lining.
Cow milk contains active hormones that have the potential to alter human hormone levels. It contains insulin-like growth factor-1(IGF-1) hormone that has been linked to higher risk of breast, colorectal, prostate cancers.
Cow’s milk proteins are also known to be gluten cross-reactors, which means that in many cases people with gluten intolerance have the same reaction to dairy products as to gluten.
Unfortunately, a medical test can determine only some types of allergies. A medical test might show no reaction on the skin and in the blood, but behavior reactions, intestinal discomfort or autoimmune reactions might be obvious. Unfortunately, there are so many mainstream doctors who believe only in the test results and do not care about the symptoms as clues for finding out the hidden sensitivity or allergy. Which is why sometimes you are the best doctor to yourself.
Scientists still cannot explain many things. But they believe that the answer is in unhealthy gut. If the gut is damaged by antibiotics, antifungal drugs, pain killers, steroid drugs, contraceptive pills, sleeping and many other pills, unhealthy or nutritionally poor diet, prolonged fasting, overeating, stress, infectious diseases like dysentery, salmonella, typhoid and viral infections, this unhealthy gut cannot make enough of digestive enzymes and many problems start exactly there – in the gut. That is why it is so important to take proper care of it.
Returning to my story, I think my problems with dairy started after I received an aggressive antibiotic treatment almost a year ago. During the treatment and after it, until now I am taking different probiotics to restore the gut flora. But apparently this is not enough for my body in order to start to digest and accept milk yet. And the most obvious way it shows me that dairy is no go, is bigger belly.
I am not a doctor and I am not trying to convince that you have a milk allergy or sensitivity to milk. But if you have a belly that you do not know how to get rid of, or you feel bloated often, try to eliminate dairy for at least a couple of weeks. You might be surprised like me that all that big belly was just the bad illusion made by milk.